Category Archives: Movies

Miss(ing) Amy Winehouse

Earlier in the summer, this video came across my Facebook wall and ignited my current obsession with Amy Winehouse. I’ve loved Amy since one of my favorite students (DC) turned me on to her about 10 years ago, but I guess it was time for me to dive a little deeper into her music.

So, over the weekend I watched “Amy” on Amazon Prime. I’m sure all the cool kids watched the movie when it came out in 2015, but it was new to me and I really gained insight into what a tortured genius she was. The movie used family photos, videos and interviews to provide a portrait of a young woman with huge talent, but even larger issues. I hadn’t realized she had written so much of her own music and learning the stories behind the lyrics gave me new perspective on her life. Watching her perform was absolutely mesmerizing and despite knowing what the ultimate outcome would be, I just kept waiting for someone to save her. So tragic.

With my now full blown infatuation, I’ve been exploring what Amy Winehouse music is available on the various streaming services. I’ve committed to a few months of Apple Music, (because I find their playlists to sometimes be pretty interesting) and I’ve been listening to a few built around the song Valerie. The winner I came up with for today was titled “Lana Del Rey: Influences” and the artists Apple Music tied together was surprisingly awesome. In addition to Amy Winehouse, there are songs by Janis Joplin, Portishead, Lou Reed, The Doors and Billie Holiday featured. And somehow, they all just work together in a fantastic way.  Good stuff – check it out.

Who are you missing these days? What performer/musician would you most like to see reincarnated?

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Filed under art, favorites, Movies, Music

BlacKKKlansman

Eight or ten years ago my former husband and I celebrated an anniversary on Martha’s Vineyard. I think it was Labor Day weekend and, to kill time before our ferry departure, we squeezed into the Black Dog Cafe in Vineyard Haven for a final indulgent breakfast. After we were seated, I noticed the father and son seated next to us and realized pretty quickly (confirmed by the Yankees cap) that it was indeed, Spike Lee and presumably his pre-teen son.

The conversation at their table had been lively and Spike looked a little exasperated, but even more amused. He and I made as much eye contact as was possible in our tinted glasses, and smiled at one another before exchanging a few words:

“Why do we teach them to speak?
They never stop talking!”

…and then we laughed.

It was pleasant and illustrated to me how he and I are much more alike than we are different. We’re both parents and we spend time teaching our children how (not what) to think and behave and communicate. It was a perfect encounter with a cultural icon.

If we’re incredibly lucky, we raise children who can communicate like Spike Lee. His ability to depict with film a reality with which many people are unfamiliar, is remarkable. In his most recent release, BlackkKlansman, he strings together images from Birth of a Nation, Gone With the Wind, and 2017’s tragic white supremacist march in Charlottesville, VA, with the true story of Colorado Spring’s first black police officer, Ron Stallworth, to make his case that overt racism is the American way. We’ve been perfecting it for generations.

I went to the movie with my generally aware 13 y/o, yet repeatedly found myself elbowing him to explain historical references such as a mention of Branch Rickey or the blaxploitation scenes, both subjects with which he was unfamiliar. When it came to the closing scenes of the violence which was perpetrated in Charlottesville last year, it was my turn to be unfamiliar – somehow I had avoided ever seeing that footage. I left the theater in tears.

If you haven’t yet seen BlackKKlansman – go.

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Rome in films

I don’t think I’ve ever been so prepared for a trip before. I’ve been basically packed and ready for almost a week already and I’m actually looking forward to Penn Station because it gets me more near to Newark Airport which makes me that much closer to Rome…

Since time seems to moving at a pace which will surely be acceptable when I’m in Rome, but which I find to be excruciatingly slow while waiting for that to happen, I’ve spent the weekend watching films that are set in Rome. First up was the biggest disappointment – The Da Vinci Code. Truth be told, I saw this movie years ago and I was being way too optimistic to believe that focusing on the scenes set in Rome would be enough to salvage what is essentially a terribly cast adaptation of a book I enjoyed. Lesson learned. Next.

A Special Daya Carlo Ponti film starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni rocked my world with its incredible performances, camera angles and emotion. The Roman background was overshadowed by the wrenching story told, but I am so glad this movie came into my life. The scene on the rooftop with the laundry left me breathless. Thank you, Google search, for such a great find.

The final movie, Eat, Pray, Love was also a repeat for me, yet unlike Da Vinci Code this one did actually offer more for me the second time around. Somehow I had completely forgotten all of the preliminary action which occurred prior to Elizabeth Gilbert’s arrival in Rome, but that’s one of the funny things about revisiting a book or movie, isn’t it? What you take away is directly related to what you bring and that changes as life changes. What most excited me last night while watching this movie was the sense of injesting Rome – the pasta, the gelato, the scenery, the people, the language… I’m hungry and ready.

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Filed under beauty, Europe, Food, Italy, Movies, Recommendations, travel, vacation

Crying with a “purpose” and laughing when “life is beautiful”

9FFEF99C-3B5B-4088-8289-19E0167F6853A Dog’s Purpose” crushed me. I knew it was a bad idea to watch this movie, yet cuddled on the couch with my boy, I thought I’d make it through ok. I didn’t. It’s probably time for me to accept the fact that I can’t tolerate watching animals or humans, particularly children, being mistreated and dying. It guts me. It probably started with “Old Yeller,” a classic book turned movie that ended, for me, with a horrific gunshot. I understand that the movie actually ends with a new puppy and some happiness, but, by the time that final scene occurred, I was already in my room crying into my pillow.

How Jeter and I slept after watching “A Dog’s Purpose.”

After watching “A Dog’s Purpose, “Old Yeller” seems almost  cloyingly sweet. You see, unlike the dog in the more recent movie, Old Yeller mercifully only had to die once. The only thing worse for me than watching the same dog die multiple times is my newfound and overwhelming feeling that Jeter is narrating our life together. Thanks to that damn movie I keep wondering if my dog is sharing his thoughts and experiences like Bailey did. If he is, I hope that it’s a good story he’s telling.

Speaking of good stories, the Italian film “Life is Beautiful” is one that will remain with you long after the final credits role. Although the movie is more than 20 years old, the impact of the story and the performances remains vivid and I strongly encourage you to watch it whether it’s your first time or your tenth. Humor and the holocaust don’t go together in a single sentence often, but this film manages to combine the two into a tour de force that touched me deeply.

If you’re not familiar with “Life is Beautiful” the movie, set in Italy during WW II, tells the story of a Jewish waiter, Guido, who works to hide the reality of concentration camp life to his young son by presenting their situation as a game they must try to win. His commitment to making the best of their circumstances to protect his child and assure his wife of their well being is inspiring. The depth of love he exhibits for his wife and child in many ways transcends the horrors of their circumstances and managed to lift my heart despite the film’s inherent sadness. I need to watch this movie more frequently. It is simply beautiful – watch it with your family over the holidays.

Have you seen either (or both) of these movies? What movie makes you cry?

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Filed under favorites, Movies, Observations, Recommendations

Time is short

I’ve been so busy doing things and going places that I haven’t had a moment to chronicle any of it. It’s kind of getting me frustrated, but that’s how I typically react to not having what I want – in this case more time. I’ve made some notes and I swear I’m going to carve out some time over Thanksgiving break (See what I did there? Carve??) to share things that I’ve seen (an 80s band, some television and a couple of movies), a couple of books that I’ve recently read, some delicious things I’ve enjoyed eating and drinking, a week focused on health maintenance, and a couple of Albany experiences that I was lucky enough to take in. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Albany, art, birthdays, Books, breakfast, Coffee, concerts, Cooking, Dinner, Eating, Events, family, favorites, Food, house, Local, medical, Movies, Music, Observations, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips

(My own)National Night Out

Tonight, August 1st is National Night Out (NNO). There are all sorts of cool things going on around our pretty little city and I hope that you’ll get to enjoy some of the planned events. I scored a ticket yesterday for tonight’s Alabama Shakes show at the Palace, so I’ll be missing the celebration. Or, really, trading one fun event for another. Remember back when we Albany residents didn’t have the entertainment options that we now have? These days, there are choices!

I did my own NNO last night and couldn’t have been more pleased with my evening. Following an afternoon spent paddle boarding up in Saratoga, I popped open a bottle of Alsatian white and took a quick shower before getting on my bike and heading to Tricentennial Park for Bites, Camera, Action, a food truck and film event organized and sponsored by the Downtown BID. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was hungry and curious, so off I went.

The ride down was great. I mean, it’s basically all downhill. Aside from the ease of the ride, it was interesting with an event held in the park at the intersection of Delaware and Madison and a few of the new bike share stations along my route. It seems like those bikes are getting some use with one station completely empty and a couple of actual riders observed. Cool beans.

Speaking of bikes, Tricentennial Park needs a bike rack! I ended up locking up to a metal sign, but it wasn’t ideal. That is my only criticism of what downtown has going on – it was a really fun, relaxed event and I was very happy with my meal and my good fortune to run into a number of former students. I had a hankering for a burger and the super friendly folks at Burger 21 did me right with a delicious burger with bacon, cheddar, lettuce and tomato and a side of the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had. It was everything I hoped for – and only $13.

The ride home, once I made it up to Eagle Street, was great. The half moon hanging in the sky shed light on City Hall and the Capitol and Albany looked absolutely beautiful. It might not be perfect, but it’s getting better all the time.

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Filed under Albany, biking, Events, Food, Local, Movies, Music, Recommendations, Summer

Films x 5

I’ve been on a bit of a tear recently when it comes to watching movies. I’ve seen 5 in the last couple of weeks, a combination of new releases and catching up on older releases that I hadn’t previously seen. It’s kind of what happens when you’ve exhausted all the other options in our Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime household.

First up was the latest Spider-Man flick – Spider-Man:Homecoming. By no means have I have seen every incarnation of this superhero series, but this one is up there in terms of my favorite versions. It’s really nice to go to a movie with my 12 year-old and not have a single awkward moment prompted by whatever is being displayed onscreen. The movie had light moments, Peter Parker had a buddy, the cast was good (and wasn’t exclusively white) and Robert Downey, Jr had a number of scenes. Definitely worth seeing in the theater.

Next, on a customer friend’s recommendation, was The Great Beauty. It’s been a long time since a movie with subtitles, other than Manga, was viewed on my old television and this one was compelling enough to make me seek out more. The images of Rome have me beyond excited for next winter’s trip and there was a lovely melancholia that has stuck with me even days later. The scene when Jeb takes a woman down verbally is brutal, but I saw enough beauty in the film to keep me interested until the end.

We were back at the Spectrum a second Saturday to see the newly released Dunkirk. Two of my three boys are huge European history fans and they constantly teach me about geography and war. I’d never heard of Dunkirk before, but the story is remarkable and I really liked this movie. The images of those men and boys fighting for survival and to save one another is powerful and my respect for soldiers knows no bounds. I also really appreciated Christopher Nolan’s handling of the material – lots of tension, yet no blood or gore. Looks like Dunkirk is now on the list as a potential destination for Quinn’s 2020 trip, along with Paris and Bruges.

On a quiet Sunday evening I came across 20th Century Women, a movie I wanted to love, but ultimately only liked a little bit. Annette Bening is an actress that I admire and I enjoyed her performance, but the movie just didn’t feel cohesive to me. It was like a cake that is missing some critical ingredient. Meh. I hope to see her again in something more worthy of her talents, but I wouldn’t recommend bothering to see this one.

Lion, though, I very much enjoyed. The young actor who portrayed the main character as a child was amazing. His chocolate brown eyes spoke volumes and I couldn’t stop thinking about his resilience under the awful circumstances he found himself in. I don’t imagine my own children could have survived if they were faced with the same challenges. The movie, based upon a true story, is a genuine tear jerker, but it ends on a high note and watching Dev Patel for an hour plus was not a struggle. He is a very handsome man.

So, what have you seen recently?

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Filed under Movies, Observations, Recommendations, Summer, television